Creativity and Critical Thinking – What Does It Mean and Why Is It Important?



Creativity & Critical Thinking

Creativity and critical thinking are processes that are child-led and benefit greatly from the sensitive contributions of others. These processes involve making connections between things, people or places in ways that are new and personally meaningful. They occur in all areas of learning and development.

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Creativity is very much a process and often there is no clearly identifiable outcome or product. Yet, the outcome in terms of children’s confidence and skill in learning can be immense. In having scope to explore new possibilities and create new and exciting connections between people, places and things, children discover meanings in their worlds. They are also learning that they can transform ideas and rethink what they know. In this way, creativity can transform understanding by fostering critical thinking and allowing children to review, reinvent and make new meanings.

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Babies and children are naturally creative and flexible in their play, turning anything that they can reach into something that they can investigate. Creativity emerges as they become absorbed in exploring what things are like and what they can be made to do. These self-initiated investigations help them to give meaning to the things, sounds and situations around them and they seem to have their own agendas and ideas as they play. The range of this play increases significantly from around the age of eight months when most children begin to move around. This surge in capacity for physical exploration enables them to find new things and new places to explore and increases ingenuity. For example, a box can become a hiding place, a house or a cave.

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By directing children’s attention during play, adults often disturb a child’s flow of ideas, yet they should contribute. Simply being attentive to a child’s explorations and inventions is helpful as this promotes a sense of security and gives license to experimentation and risk-taking. More purposeful contributions involve tuning in to children’s ideas and helping to take them forward. Sharing and sustaining children’s thinking in this way makes adults aware of children’s interests and understandings and enables them to foster development of ideas and skills.

*Adapted from The Early Years Foundation Stage publication, “Effective Practice: Creativity and Critical Thinking”

*All images are courtesy of The NurtureStore.

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